Subjects range from 9/11 to gang warfare in London, while non-fiction titles include biography of cancer
Drawn from 136 submissions, the lineup of 10 for this year's award , in association with Davidstow Cheddar, features six novels, with Stephen Kelman drawing on the murder of Damilola Taylor in Peckham for his debut Pigeon English, and Amy Waldman, former New York Times bureau chief , taking a complex look at the repercussions of the destruction of the twin towers in The Submission. In her story, uproar follows the choice of a Muslim architect to design a memorial.
"A criticism of many debut novels is that they can be rather introspective or autobiographical. All the novels here have shown a very acute awareness of the world around them," said Lisa Allardice, editor of Guardian Review and chair of the judges. "There is a real sense of the bigger picture."
Kelman and Waldman are joined on the longlist for the £10,000 prize by Mirza Waheed's The Collaborator, a devastating story set in 1990s Kashmir, and Mary Horlock's The Book of Lies, which entwines the tale of 15-year-old Catherine, who has apparently pushed her best friend off a cliff, with a story of the Nazi occupation of Guernsey. Erin Morgenstern's The Night Circus is a fin-de-siècle romance set in a magical circus, and Juan Pablo Villalobos's Down the Rabbit Hole, chosen after suggestions from the public, tells of a Latin American drug baron's son.
"What is striking is when first-time writers do engage with the world around them rather than focusing on interiority, bringing not only an ability to write, but something to say," said Allardice.
The longlist is completed with one book of poetry, Rachael Boast's Sidereal, and three non-fiction titles: Siddhartha Mukherjee's "biography" of cancer The Emperor of All Maladies, which has already won a Pulitzer and which Allardice called "magisterial", Owen Jones's Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, and Elif Batuman's The Possessed, a comic memoir of studying Russian literature at Stanford.
Allardice is joined on the judging panel by the authors David Nicholls and Antonia Fraser, the critic Sarah Churchwell, Waterstone's Stuart Broom and Guardian deputy editor Katharine Viner.
Supported by Waterstone's, the award is open to all first-time authors writing in or translated into English, across all genres.
A series of regional reading groups, run in partnership with Waterstone's bookshops, will now assist the judging panel with choosing a shortlist